bogher (OSw) baugr (ON) noun

The term baugr, ‘ring’ (of gold and silver), appears in numerous medieval Germanic languages, and it was a multipurpose item used in various, often legal, contexts. People swore oaths on rings or ring-swords, and rings were visible signs of political networking and honourable gifts.

The medieval Nordic laws show that rings, or bits of rings, were used as payment, esp. of compensation for manslaughter and fines, primarily to the king. In this case, a baugr in Norway equalled 12 aurar (1 1/2 mörk). OSw bogher only appears in HL, where it also equalled 12 örar (revealing a close connection with ONorw law). In Iceland the baugar were calculated in ounces of silver.

The plural form (ON) baugar usually referred to wergild, the sum of compensation a killer had to pay to the kin of the killed person. In ONorw laws three classes of baugar were distinguished: höfuðbaugr (q.v.), bróðurbaugr (q.v.), and brǿðrungsbaugr (q.v.), reflecting the distance in degree of kinship to the killed person. The people belonging to one such class were called baugamenn (see baugamaðr). The group of people entitled to (paying or receiving) compensation for manslaughter was called bauggildi (q.v.).

The term ránbaugr (q.v.) referred to unlawful seizure or holding of property; slanbaugr (q.v.) was what a person had to pay when he or she was watching an assault without interfering.

A famous example of this system of compensation is found in the OIce Baugatal (‘The Wergild Ring List’) in Grágás, which contains rules for compensation for manslaughter as far as to fourth cousins, which one kindred paid to another (see Laws of Early Iceland: Grágás I, 175). Various components made up the compensation, the silver baugr and smaller units were referred to as baugþak (q.v.) and þveiti (q.v.). Similar complex and extensive tariffs appear in the FrL and GuL (Norway) and in the HL (Sweden).

The reliability of the Baugatal as a historical source has been disputed, but recent scholarship (Christoph Kilger, Peter Foote) views it as credible, at least in its fundamental features.

The latter element of the baugþak is derived from the verb þekja, which means ‘to increase a sum by adding to it’ or ‘to contribute to a price or fine’. Baugþak may therefore refer to the smaller pendant rings that are found linked around larger rings. Þveiti means ‘piece’ or ‘fragment’, and possibly also ‘fragmented silver’, and it is also mentioned in the earliest ONorw laws (see Hertzberg, 750).

At the assembly (ON þing) the compensation rings of silver were checked for weight and tested, and Baugatal stipulated that the rings should be ‘… standing up to the test of a nick, and of one quality inside and out’. The baugr denoted a fine to the king, not only for manslaughter, but also for infringements of other kinds, such as letting one’s cattle go grazing on other people’s pasture (GuL ch. 81).

The importance of the concept bauger is also revealed by the number of compounds. In addition to those mentioned above, we find baugrygr (q.v.) (a woman entitled to a main part of the wergild), baugshelgi (q.v.) (degree of personal protection amounting to a fine of a bauger to the king in case of injury or insult), bauggildr (protected by a fine of a bauger), bauggildismaðr (q.v.) (a male relative on the father’s side), baugaskipti (the distribution of fines and compensation among the persons involved), and fjörbaugsgarðr (the lesser outlawry). The last concept is known from the Grágás. The only OSw compound þiufbogher (q.v.) (compensation/fine for theft) appears in HL.

ring OIce Js Lbb 19
ONorw FrL Mhb 52 Sab 2
ONorw GuL Kpb, Løb, Llb, Mhb, Sab

wergild OIce Grg Bat 113
ONorw FrL Mhb 13, 18

wergild ring OIce Grg Bat 113
ONorw FrL Var 7 Rgb 24 Jkb 4

{bogher} OSw HL Mb

Brink 2010b, 127−28; Engeler 1991, 86; Hedeager 2011, 12−13; Hertzberg s.v.v. baugamaðr, baugaskipti, bauggildi, bauggildismaðr, bauggildr, baugrygr, baugshelgi, baugr, bróðurbaugr, brǿðrungsbaugr, höfuðbaugr, ránbaugr, slanbaugr; Kilger 2008, 282; KLNM s.v.v. böter, edsformular, hov og horg, hälsingelagen, mansbot, odelsrett, straff; Riisøy 2016; Schlyter s.v.v. bauger, bogher 2 b; Vogt 2010, 120−21, 146

  • ‘bogher’. A Lexicon of Medieval Nordic Law.